The CCHA playoffs roll on tonight. Check out our full preview of the quarterfinals, but here are some predictions (I expect to predict no more than two of these series correctly):
No. 1 Ferris State vs. No. 11 Bowling Green
Bowling Green is playing its best hockey of the season right now, but Ferris State has only lost one time in 16 games so far in 2012. Bulldogs goaltender Taylor Nelson and defenseman Chad Billins were named to the CCHA All-Conference First Team earlier this week and are in great position to help lead Bob Daniels’ crew to Joe Louis Arena next weekend. Nelson should have no trouble stopping the No. 58 ranked offense in the nation, but since Ferris doesn’t have the most potent offense itself, expect a close game or two.
Prediction: Ferris State wins the series, 2-0
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 8 Notre Dame
As I wrote in the full preview of this weekend’s action, Notre Dame is up against history this weekend — trying to end Michigan’s streak of 23 consecutive CCHA semifinals. The Irish played well last weekend at home against Ohio State and are the toughest No. 8 seed imaginable for Michigan to face this weekend. The series will come down to the goaltenders, and in that case, it’s hard to pick against the proven Shawn Hunwick against the newcomer Steven Summerhays. But this series should go down to the wire on Sunday, in which case anything can happen — especially with the offensive talent in each team’s lineup.
Prediction: Michigan wins the series, 2-1
No. 3 Western Michigan vs. No. 7 Lake Superior
The Broncos enter their first playoffs under former NHL veteran coach Andy Murray, who has experience coaching in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lake State was the superior team against Alaska last weekend, and I expect the Lakers behind goaltender Kevin Kapalka to be competitive this weekend as well. That said, the physical play of the Broncos and the strong play of Frank Slubowski in net may prove to be too much. Look out for a series decided on special teams, more so than the other three quarterfinal series this weekend.
Prediction: Western Michigan, 2-1
No. 4 Miami vs. No. 5 Michigan State
The Spartans are undefeated (9-0) all-time against the RedHawks, but it appears the RedHawks have finally found an identity this season after months of searching for one. Goaltender Connor Knapp will likely get the start in the series, and no one in the country is playing better over the last three weeks. This series should be fun to watch, with Reilly Smith (Miami) and Torey Krug (Michigan State) going up against each other.
Prediction: Miami wins the series, 2-1